Sunday, March 22, 2020

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Latest Half-Dozen Posts (Full Text)

COVID-19: Home Test Kits & Other Thoughts

Find Your Household Thermometer
Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, March 22, 2020, p. D2

Like to get a COVID-19 test? South Korea tests 15,000 a day. That’s more than the U.S. tested in three months.

Your test is weeks or months away. You can’t fly to South Korea. What to do?

A symptom of COVID19 is fever. A quick test for large groups is individuals’ temperature. Look around your residence. You may have a thermometer. If not, buy one. Use it. If it registers under 98.6 F (37 C) that’s some evidence you’re not, yet, showing symptoms. Of course, you may be infected, but in your incubation period, or asymptomatic. But you’ll know more than you know now. You’re welcome.

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City

A version of this Letter was sent to both The Gazette and Press-Citizen on Monday, March 16. The Gazette version, above, was published earlier online as "A common household item to help track COVID-19," The Gazette, March 20, 2020.



An earlier version was published by the Press-Citizen: Nicholas Johnson, "Your At-Home Test Kit," March 18, 2020, p. A7. It could not be found online. It read:
"Like to get a COVID19 test? South Korea tests 15,000 a day. That’s more than the U.S. tested in three months. To move the focus from President Trump's 'numbers' we're told to wash our hands. Like this is our fault. What we've not been reminded (as of this writing) is the little test kit most of us already have: a thermometer, a device used to quickly examine large groups. Find yours. Clean it well. Use it:. If it registers under 98.6 F (37 C) the odds are extraordinarily good you are not, yet, showing symptoms of the disease. You're welcome." Nicholas Johnson, Iowa City.
[Photo credit: Centers for Disease and Prevention via Wikimedia.]

Discussion

Why a letter? The shorter, letter-to-the-editor, form (rather than a column) was used in hopes it might speed the publication and distribution of this information. Although there was always mention by public officials and media of "fever" as one of the COVID-19 symptoms (along with coughing and difficulty breathing), and a couple mentions of thermometers this past week, at the time the Letter was drafted (March 15 and 16) I was unaware of any public mention of thermometers in the context of the discussion regarding the seemingly insurmountable shortage of test kits.

Why more "discussion"? Because there is so much more the public needs to know about testing than could be put in the Letter, hopefully this additional "discussion" can provide some of that.

What COVID-19 test kits can and cannot do. Had the Administration begun building up the necessary supplies, including test kits, when we first learned of the Chinese experience in December, or in January, when it was alerted to the serious risk and the first infected patients emerged, it could have begun the successful Korean approach at that time. That opportunity is now lost. We still need the kits for those at highest risk (over age 85 with other medical conditions), those experiencing all the symptoms -- those that doctors want, but are unable, to have tested. But tests have their limits. The CDC's first test kits apparently had serious faults. There are still false positives and negatives. And the biggest drawback is that, unless you are tested every day, the test results only report your condition on the day and time you were tested.

What thermometers can and cannot do. Of course, thermometers also only report your temperature as of the day and time you use them. But, unlike COVID-19 test kits, you can use your thermometer multiple times a day for no additional cost and without depriving anyone of a thermometer.

Fevers result from your body healing itself. (That's one reason not to take fever-reducing pain medicine, if you can tolerate the pain, because these meds reduce the benefits of fever.) Fevers may be caused by many medical conditions including inflammations, bacterial infections and viruses.

What is said to be a "normal" temperature (98.6 F, 37.0 C) may still be considered "normal" if within a range of 97-99 F (36.1-37.2 C). Temperatures are considered serious once they reach 103 F (39.4 C) or above.

If you are running a temperature of any amount, and especially if below the serious level, it does not mean that you do have COVID-19 -- especially if you have none of the other symptoms. Similarly, if you have no "fever" or other symptoms it does not mean that you do not have the virus. During the disease's incubation period you will have no symptoms. You can be infected but have none of the symptoms (be "asymptomatic"). You can be infected but have such mild symptoms that you easily recover. But by taking your temperature twice a day (and making a permanent record of it; it's usually lowest in the morning) you can at least track one of the principal symptoms of the virus.

Conclusion. Thermometers are not a magic cure for COVID-19. They are not the equivalent of a COVID-19 Test Kit. But they are widely available, within the financial ability of almost everyone, and used daily can give you trend lines regarding this one symptom of our current pandemic.

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Tags: COVID-19, COVID-19 symptoms, fever, temperature, test kits, thermometer, virus

Sunday, March 01, 2020

Case for Iowa's Caucuses

Case for Iowa's Caucuses

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, March 1, 2020, p. D3

Every four years Iowa takes a beating from the 49 states that aren’t reporting first-in-the-nation presidential primary results.

Arguments include “Iowa’s too small, white and rural” -- and many Iowans can’t or don’t participate.

Could caucuses be improved? Of course. Nevada offers one option: four days of early “caucus” voting; ranked voting of up to five choices; and Saturday afternoon (instead of a weekday evening) for the in-person caucus gathering. [Photo: portion of Iowa City Precinct 3 caucus, Field House, Feb. 3, 2020; photo credit: Nicholas Johnson.]

The bi-coastal Democratic Party elite who confuse Iowa with Idaho and Ohio literally fly over the state going to New York or LA. They are the same folks who were willing to hand Republicans the 80 percent of America’s 3100 counties Trump won in 2016 – mostly counties they’d never visit.

Iowa is far more representative of America than they will ever know.

In 1974, after 12 tempestuous years in Washington, I planned to drive thousands of miles to revisit America. Then, invited to run in Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District primary, I realized those 3rd District counties were a microcosm of America. Moreover, they would take much less gas to drive around and visit than covering the entire country.

I closed my eyes and poked my finger at a map of the district. It landed on a small farming town of 100 residents that became my campaign home. A young farm family rented me an empty house on their property. A neighbor gave me some straw bales for insulation around its base. And the one church’s congregation welcomed me to its Sunday services. My checking account was with the town’s one bank. Businesses for miles around offered local banks’ blank counter checks. No ID was required. I’d just sign the blank check, take my purchase, and my new home’s bank would recognize my signature.

At that time these 3rd District counties had African-American, Latino and Native American populations. Farm families, sure, but also young professionals, small colleges and a state university, daily and weekly newspapers, entrepreneurs, industry (John Deere Tractor Factory), and union members (Waterloo’s UAW Local 838). Iowa was a state that invited, rather than rejected, immigrants, a state where students from around the world, in excellent K-12 schools, spoke over 100 languages.

The ability to go to any farm, business, home, or union hall and visit with anyone, the stories I heard, the friends I made, gave me an understanding of America no Washington job, book or TV show could offer. Those were some of the most rewarding months of my life.

Today, Iowa also has its share of counties with rural poverty; shuttered main streets, high schools and hospitals; opioid addiction and suicides. Iowans who, ignored by elite Democrats, look to Trump as their only salvation.

And those are just some of the reasons Iowa is the perfect state to be first-in-the-nation.

Here are some more.

Iowa’s size is an advantage. It’s possible for candidates to visit its 99 counties, to get a sense of an entire state while meeting, one-on-one, with a meaningful proportion of its diverse citizens.

Iowa can be to politics what spring training locations are to baseball. The number of Iowa’s national delegates are so insignificant that little’s at risk. Iowa lets candidates scrimmage, hone their talking points, interact with “real people,” better understand their opponents, experience hiring and managing staff while raising money. Iowa helps improve candidates’ national name recognition with free media coverage that’s also informative for the nation’s onlookers.

Keeping Iowa’s first-in-the-nation role is good for the candidates, for both political parties, all Americans, and our democracy. A wise Democratic National Committee should know that.
______________
Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City, is the author of Columns of Democracy. Comments: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org

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Tags: Democratic National Committee, Iowa caucuses, politics, precinct caucus, presidential primary, ranked voting,

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Impeachment: What the House Should Have Said


Trump's Conviction Should Have Been A Slam Dunk

President Trump's defenders excuse his urging Ukraine (plus earlier Russia, and later China) to interfere in our elections. They are left with the argument that he may have done it, it wasn't a nice thing to do, but it's not an "impeachable offense." 

The House Democrats' characterization of their first article of impeachment isn't much better: "Abuse of Power." Saying the president "violated his oath of office," or "the Constitution," provides little more specificity than "abuse of power" (even when supported with evidence of Trump's pressure on Ukraine).

What's an "impeachable offense"? There can be, and has been, debate as to whether individual examples of presidential bad behavior should constitute a basis for impeachment. But there are two as to which there is little or no question.

Many conservatives argue that we should be bound by what the Constitution's drafters intended. Most lawyers would at least agree "original intent," or "legislative history," are at a minimum relevant evidence to consider in defining and applying terms.

What the House Democrats should have emphasized for a confused public (and Republican Senate), is why Trump's impeachment, and Senate conviction, should be a slam dunk. It is because, unlike other behavior that has, or has not, been found to be impeachable during the 62 impeachment hearings in the House since 1789, what Trump has been doing is something the drafters had experienced, caused them great legitimate concern, and they specifically tried to prevent: namely, foreign interference in our politics, government, and especially elections, whether sought from within or imposed from abroad. [Photo credit: Constitutional Convention; original painting by Junius Brutus Stearns, painter; photo is public domain, commons.wikimedia.org.]

This assertion is supported by numerous references in the history of the time, The Federalist Papers, and notes from the Constitutional Convention. But one need go no further than the Constitution's provisions. "Treason" ("the crime of betraying one's country") is specifically mentioned as a ground for impeachment. Presidents must be born in the U.S. They are forbidden to accept any "emoluments" (gifts or titles) from other countries.

[A second specific but more general concern, tangentially related to to the drafters' efforts to avoid foreign influence, was their insisting on preventing future presidents from assuming the powers of a king. Their earlier Declaration of Independence made that clear: "The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States" -- following which they offer a long list of the Declaration's equivalent of "articles of impeachment" of the King. And then: "A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people."

These concerns continued through the Constitutional Convention, ultimately taking the form of the "checks and balances" on the executive provided by the judiciary, House and Senate; the four-year limit on a president's terms of office, denying presidents the power "to declare war" exercised by kings -- and the ultimate power of the House to impeach, and the Senate to remove, a president.]

I set forth below an excerpt from the House's "Trial Memorandum" for the Senate that deals with these issues (plus the link to the entire document). This discussion of of foreign influence is well done, and documented with footnotes. Unfortunately, it is buried in the "Memorandum" where few will find and read it, and has never been elevated and emphasized for the public, House members and Senators as the most powerful argument for convicting the President.

# # #

TRIAL MEMORANDUM
OF THE UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
IN THE IMPEACHMENT TRIAL OF PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP


January 18, 2020, pp. 9-12

Fresh from their experience under British rule by a king, the Framers were concerned that corruption posed a grave threat to their new republic. As George Mason warned the other delegates to the Constitutional Convention, “if we do not provide against corruption, our government will soon be at an end.”43 The Framers stressed that a President who “act[s] from some corrupt motive or other” or “willfully abus[es] his trust” must be impeached,44 because the President “will have great opportunitys of abusing his power.”45

43 2 The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787, at 392 (Max Farrand ed.,1911) (Farrand).
44 Background and History of Impeachment: Hearing Before the Subcomm. on the Constitution of the H. Comm. on the Judiciary, 105th Cong. 49 (1998) (quoting James Iredell).
45 2 Farrand at 67.

The Framers recognized that a President who abuses his power to manipulate the democratic process cannot properly be held accountable by means of the very elections that he has rigged to his advantage.46 The Framers specifically feared a President who abused his office by sparing “no efforts or means whatever to get himself re-elected.”47 Mason asked: “Shall the man who has practised corruption & by that means procured his appointment in the first instance, be suffered to escape punishment, by repeating his guilt?”48

46 See id. at 65.
47 Id. at 64.
48 Id. at 65.

Thus, the Framers resolved to hold the President “impeachable whilst in office” as “an essential security for the good behaviour of the Executive.”49 By empowering Congress to immediately remove a President when his misconduct warrants it, the Framers established the people’s elected representatives as the ultimate check on a President whose corruption threatened our democracy and the Nation’s core interests.50

49 Id. at 64.
50 See The Federalist No. 65 (Alexander Hamilton).

The Framers particularly feared that foreign influence could undermine our new system of self-government.51 In his farewell address to the Nation, President George Washington warned Americans “to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government.”52 Alexander Hamilton cautioned that the “most deadly adversaries of republican government” may come “chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.”53 James Madison worried that a future President could “betray his trust to foreign powers,” which “might be fatal to the Republic.”54 And, of particular relevance now, in their personal correspondence about “foreign Interference,” Thomas Jefferson and John Adams discussed their apprehension that “as often as Elections happen, the danger of foreign Influence recurs.”55

51 See, e.g., 2 Farrand at 65-66; George Washington, Farewell Address (Sept. 19, 1796), George Washington Papers, Series 2, Letterbooks 1754-1799: Letterbook 24, April 3, 1793–March 3, 1797, Library of Congress (Washington Farewell Address); Adams-Jefferson Letter, https://perma.cc/QWD8- 222B.
52 Washington Farewell Address.
53 The Federalist No. 68 (Alexander Hamilton).
54 2 Farrand at 66.
55 Adams-Jefferson Letter, https://perma.cc/QWD8-222B.

Guided by these concerns, the Framers included within the Constitution various mechanisms to ensure the President’s accountability and protect against foreign influence— including a requirement that Presidents be natural-born citizens of the United States,56 prohibitions on the President’s receipt of gifts, emoluments, or titles from foreign states,57 prohibitions on profiting from the Presidency,58 and, of course, the requirement that the President face reelection after a four-year Term.59 But the Framers provided for impeachment as a final check on a President who sought foreign interference to serve his personal interests, particularly to secure his own reelection.

56 U.S. Const., Art. II, § 1, cl. 5.
57 U.S. Const., Art. I, § 9, cl. 8.
58 U.S. Const., Art. II, § 1, cl. 7.
59 U.S. Const., Art. II, § 1, cl. 1.

In drafting the Impeachment Clause, the Framers adopted a standard flexible enough to reach the full range of potential Presidential misconduct: “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”60 The decision to denote “Treason” and “Bribery” as impeachable conduct reflects the Founding-era concerns over foreign influence and corruption. But the Framers also recognized that “many great and dangerous offenses” could warrant impeachment and immediate removal of a President from office.61 These “other high Crimes and Misdemeanors” provided for by the Constitution need not be indictable criminal offenses. Rather, as Hamilton explained, impeachable offenses involve an “abuse or violation of some public trust” and are of “a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated political, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself.”62 The Framers thus understood that “high crimes and misdemeanors” would encompass acts committed by public officials that inflict severe harm on the constitutional order.63

60 U.S. Const., Art. II, § 4; see 2 Farrand at 550.
61 2 Farrand at 550.
62 The Federalist No. 65 (Alexander Hamilton) (capitalization altered).
63 These issues are discussed at length in the report by the House Committee on the Judiciary. See H. Rep. No. 116-346, at 28-75.
64 Statement of Facts ¶ 160.
65 Id. ¶ 161.

Tags: #Constitution, #Constitutional Convention, #elections, #Federalist Papers, #House, #impeachable offense, #impeachment, #original intent, #legislative history, #President Donald Trump, #Senate, #Trump, #Ukraine

Saturday, January 11, 2020

Soleimani More Dangerous Dead Than Alive

Soleimani More Dangerous in Death

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, January 12, 2020, p. D2

In the movie “Wag the Dog,” two weeks before a presidential election, the sitting president is accused of sexual misconduct with a young girl. Desperate for a way to suppress the story the president’s political consultant, Conrad Brean (Robert DeNiro), seeks the help of Hollywood producer Stanley Motss (Dustin Hoffman). “What do you think would hold it off?” he asks. The producer responds, “Nothing. Nothing. You’d have to have a war.” [Photo credit: still from film, used by Hollywood Reporter.]

How can a president get popular support for war? Hermann Göring understood it best: “It is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship … All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country.” [German General Hermann Göring, Nuremberg Trial, 1946; photo credit https://marinamaral.com/portfolio/hermann-goring-sits-in-the-dock-at-the-nuremberg-trial-1946/](fn 1)

As prior presidents predicted, our enemy, General Qassem Soleimani, has already become a far greater threat to America in death than he ever was in life. That threat will only increase over the months and years to come. [Photo credit: General Qasem Soleimani; Ali Khamenei, http://farsi.khamenei.ir/photo-album?id=29307#i, commons.wikimedia.org] (fn 2)

Nicholas Johnson
Iowa City





FOOTNOTES

1. Snopes confirms the accuracy of this quote, https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/war-games/ .

2. "George W. Bush did not target him [General Soleimani] during the height of the Iraq War, when Iranian-supplied roadside bombs and Iran-backed militias were killing hundreds of American troops. By 2011, that toll had reached more than 600 and Barack Obama was the president; he too declined to hit the general. But at some point Trump, who came into office vowing to pull the United States out from Middle Eastern wars, decided to cross a line two war-president predecessors feared breaching. ...

Elissa Slotkin, a Democratic representative and former CIA analyst focused on Shia militias, said in a statement that she’d seen friends and colleagues killed or hurt by Iranian weapons under Soleimani’s guidance when she served in Iraq. She said she was involved in discussions during both the Bush and Obama administrations about how to respond to his violence. Neither opted for assassination.

'What always kept both Democratic and Republican presidents from targeting Soleimani himself was the simple question: Was the strike worth the likely retaliation, and the potential to pull us into protracted conflict?' she said. 'The two administrations I worked for both determined that the ultimate ends didn’t justify the means. The Trump Administration has made a different calculation.'" Kathy Gilsinan, "It Wasn’t the Law That Stopped Other Presidents From Killing Soleimani; The Iranian general helped get hundreds of Americans killed — through two administrations. Both declined to kill him," The Atlantic, January 4, 2020, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2020/01/why-kill-soleimani-now/604441/ .



[Photo credit: http://alwaght.com/en/News/169779/Iranians-Hold-Massive-Rallies-to-Condemn-US-Assassination-of-Gen-Soleimani,-Demand-Revenge, January 3, 2020]

Would this picture be more understandable if we reversed roles? First off, realize that Soleimani was not just a military general, he was a national hero and the second most powerful political figure in Iran. Then consider this scenario. During World War II Dwight D. Eisenhower was a five-star general in the Army and served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe. Following the war he served as Army Chief of Staff (1945–1948), as president of Columbia University (1948–1953) and as the first Supreme Commander of NATO (1951–1952). He was twice elected president of the United States in landslides, 1952 and 1956. Understand that I am not saying that the two men are moral equivalents. But imagine that another country's president, or head of state, had arranged for the successful assassination of Eisenhower in 1952. What would have been Americans' reaction? What would have been your reaction?

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Tags: assassination, Hermann Göring, Iran, Iraq, Nuremberg, President Donald Trump, Qassem Soleimani, Soleimani, Wag the Dog

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Asking the Right I-380 Question

Asking the Right Questions About Interstate 380 Expansion

Nicholas Johnson
The Gazette, December 1, 2019, p. D3
[The Gazette (online), November 26, 2019]
also as:
"Asking the Right I-380 Question,"
Iowa City Press-Citizen, December 4, 2019, p. A7

Asking the right question is the first step to finding the right answer.

Asking how many lanes should be added to The Corridor's corridor, I-380, may not be the right question.

“Slow elevator” complaints caused a hotel manager to call in engineers. Complaints continued. Someone suggested, “Your problem is not elevators, it’s complaints.” So perceived, the solution was full-length mirrors by each elevator. Guests’ who admired themselves while waiting no longer complained.

As I wrote in "How to Totally Eliminate Flood Damage," the question is not how to have less water in the river, it’s how to have fewer structures in the flood plain.

The Iowa DOT's December 2018 I-380 Planning Study compares favorably with similar studies elsewhere. Unfortunately, most of them recommend what board consultant John Carver describes as "doing the wrong things better."

The Study mentions CRANDIC. Most nations use passenger rail. That iron horse left Iowa’s barn a century ago when we had 10,500 rail miles. The auto industry campaigned to replace tracks with auto dealerships. Now U.S. highways and parking lots cover an area roughly the size of Iowa, and Americans pay from $7,000 to $10,000 a year to drive cars. China has 2,800 pairs of trains travelling 200 mph between 550 cities. We have CRANDIC. [Photo of G7232 Bullet Train leaving Zhenjiang Station, credit: Wikimedia]

Even if this was a “congestion” problem, most studies find additional lanes increase congestion. Economists call it "induced demand." What did Houston get for its $2.8 billion expansion of the Katy Freeway to 26 lanes? Increased travel times of 55 percent. [Photo credit: Wikimedia, Michael Coghlan]

Sometimes removing freeway lanes is both cheaper and more effective than adding them. San Francisco cut lanes and daily 100,000-passenger freeway traffic in half and created one of its better neighborhoods in its place.

But the I-380 question should not be, “what’s the best way to make room for more cars?” It’s “what are the alternatives to requiring a population the size of a large Iowa community to relocate daily, like unwelcome immigrants, up and down I-380?”

There are many possibilities. Some have been tried. Most require good will among governments, businesses, and employees.

Educate the public to the full cost, in dollars and time, of commuting by car; the months they must work just to pay for getting to work.

Parents buy homes close enough to schools their kids can walk. Imagine the savings if the homes were close enough to work those parents could walk.

Employers could be encouraged to pay workers enough to afford neighborhood housing at 30 percent of their income, or work with governments and landlords to subsidize workers’ rents.

Plans for new businesses and factories could include plans for employee housing.

Current businesses could create regional or coworking centers closer to employees’ homes.

Rethink “employment.” Instead of buying an employee’s time in place, employers could buy their productivity from anyplace.

Employers could rethink communications. What’s the most efficient mix of one-on-one face-to-face, group face-to-face, group phone or video meetings; reaching customers with personal meetings, phone calls, personal emails and texts, newsletters? Did everyone have to be at that last meeting?

Must employees be in “the office” every day to do their work? Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in the world, used telegraph messages to manage Carnegie Steel from China and elsewhere. Today, 100 years later, 50 percent of our workforce hold jobs compatible with what we now call telecommuting.

We can’t solve I-380 congestion with the hotel manager’s mirrors. Nor are more lanes the answer. The answer will be found in creatively redrafting the question.

__________
Nicholas Johnson of Iowa City promoted containerized shipping as U.S. Maritime Administrator in 1964, and is the author of Columns of Democracy. Comments: mailbox@nicholasjohnson.org.

# # #

Sources for Column

(in order in column)
Hotel elevators. https://marc-lemenestrel.net/IMG/pdf/dery1.pdf, pp. 16-17

How to Totally Eliminate Flood Damage, May 30, 2013. https://fromdc2iowa.blogspot.com/2013/05/how-to-totally-eliminate-flood-damage.htmlj

Iowa DOT's 2018 Planning Study. https://iowadot.gov/i380planningstudy/pdfs/I-380-PEL-Final-Report%20.pdf

Carver; "wrong things better." Carver, "Remaking Governance," ASBJ, March 2000, p. 26, http://nicholasjohnson.org/writing-2/asbjcarv.html ("Much of what is published for boards -- including advice appearing regularly in these pages -- reinforces errors of the past or, at best, teaches trustees how to do the wrong things better.")

Iowa's 10,500 rail miles. Iowa DOT, Rail Transportation, Iowa Rail History. https://iowadot.gov/iowarail/Historical-Culture/Iowa-Rail-History

Auto dealerships for tracks. "History of rail transportation in California," Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_rail_transportation_in_California ('The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge opened to rail traffic in 1939 only to have the last trains run in 1958 after fewer than twenty years of service – the tracks were torn up and replaced with additional lanes for automobiles. All four streetcar systems, and other similar rail networks across the state, declined in the 1940s with the rise of California's car culture and freeway network. They were then all eventually taken over to some degree, and dismantled, in favor of bus service by National City Lines, a controversial national front company owned by General Motors and other companies in what became known as the General Motors streetcar conspiracy.")

Land covered by highways and parking lots; Iowa in square miles. "Paving the Planet: Cars and Crops Competing for Land," Earth Policy Institute, ("However we visualize it, the U.S. area devoted to roads and parking lots covers an estimated 16 million hectares (61,000 square miles), an expanse approaching the size of the 21 million hectares that U.S. farmers planted in wheat last year.") Area of Iowa. 56,272 square miles. "Iowa Population 2019 (Demographics, Maps, Graphs), World Population Review, http://worldpopulationreview.com/states/iowa-population/ Accord, Iowa DOT, Demographics, https://iowadot.gov/about/Demographics

$7,000 to $10,000 annually to operate car. AAA NewsRoom, "Your Driving Costs," https://newsroom.aaa.com/auto/your-driving-costs/ Discussion includes chart with 8 categories of vehicle from "small sedan" ($7,114) to "Pickup" ($10,839). See also "average" in "The Cost of Owning Your Car? $9,000 a year," USA Today, https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/16/aaa-car-ownership-costs/2070397/

China's 2,800 pairs of trains; 217 mph; 550 cities. Travel China Guide, "China High Speed Train (Bullet Train). https://www.travelchinaguide.com/china-trains/high-speed/

CRANDIC. "Cedar Rapids and Iowa City Railway," Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cedar_Rapids_and_Iowa_City_Railway

Additional lanes increase congestion. "Induced Demand," Wikipedia.org, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Induced_demand. ("after supply increases, more of a good is consumed. ... [T]his idea ["induced demand"] has become important in the debate over the expansion of transportation systems, and is often used as an argument against increasing roadway traffic capacity as a cure for congestion. ... City planner Jeff Speck has called induced demand 'the great intellectual black hole in city planning, the one professional certainty that everyone thoughtful seems to acknowledge, yet almost no one is willing to act upon.'")

Houston Katy Freeway; 55% increased travel time, $2.8 billion. CityLab, "City Lab University: Induced Demand," https://www.citylab.com/transportation/2018/09/citylab-university-induced-demand/569455/ ("cost of $2.8 billion. ... [A]fter the freeway was widened, congestion got worse. ... [T]ravel times increased by ... 55 percent during the evening commute."

San Francisco removal of lanes. "What's Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse," WIRED, June 17, 2014, https://www.wired.com/2014/06/wuwt-traffic-induced-demand/ ("San Francisco removed a highway section, called the Central Freeway, that carried nearly 100,000 cars per day in 1989. The boulevard that replaced it now only carries around 45,000 daily cars and yet they move.") "Six Freeway Removals That Changed Their Cities Forever," GIZMODO, May 25, 2016, https://gizmodo.com/6-freeway-removals-that-changed-their-cities-forever-1548314937 ("It seems counterintuitive, right? Rip out eight lanes of freeway through the middle of your metropolis and you’ll be rewarded with not only less traffic, but safer, more efficient cities? But it’s true, and it’s happening in places all over the world. . . . Okay, you’re thinking, but where do all the cars go? It turns out that when you take out a high-occupancy freeway it doesn’t turn the surface streets into the equivalent of the Autobahn. A theory called “induced demand” proves that if you make streets bigger, more people will use them. When you make them smaller, drivers discover and use other routes, and traffic turns out to be about the same. Don’t believe it? Check out these freeway removals in cities all over the world and see for yourself.")

I-380 commuters, over 4,000 each way twice a day, if a city would be in the top 100 of Iowa’s 947 cities (roughly top 10%); https://www.iowa-demographics.com/cities_by_population, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_in_Iowa

30% of income for housing. HUD, “Affordable Housing,” https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/comm_planning/affordablehousing/ (“Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care. An estimated 12 million renter and homeowner households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing. A family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.”)

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Tags: AndrewCarnegie, bulletTrains, CedarRapids, commutingCosts, congestion, coworkingCenters, CRANDIC, employeeHousing, I380, IowaCity, IowaDOT, JohnCarver, MaritimeAdministration, questions, slowElevators, telecommuting, traffic
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Monday, November 11, 2019

Understanding Impeachment

There is so much nonsense spouted about impeachment these days, whether deliberate obfuscation or unknowingly, that you might find these items useful. (The most basic sources, from the Constitution, are Article II, Section 4 (impeachment power), Art. I, Sec. 2, Clause 5 (possessed by the House), Art. I, Sec. 3, Cl. 6 (trial in Senate). You are spared additional footnotes, though specific citations can be provided if desired.)

This material is hoped, intended and believed to be accurate, but does not purport to be, and is not, either a "legal opinion" or "scholarship."

There are three sections to which these links can take you: (1) The Obligation to Impeach, (2) Impeachment Standard Not "Illegality," and (3) Trump Has Violated the Law. [Photo credit: Wikimedia.]

The Obligation to Impeach. Every president, House and Senate member, and federal judge has sworn to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution requires each branch (legislative, executive and judicial) to maintain the balance of power among the three branches and prevent constitutional violations by the other two.

Thus, it can be argued the House has a constitutional obligation to begin an impeachment inquiry when there is reason to believe a president may have said or done things that precedent suggests constitute “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

The Congress has no more constitutional right to evade this responsibility, to fail to exercise this specifically granted power, than it has a right to fail to exercise its power to take the census every ten years. It certainly cannot refuse to start an impeachment inquiry because it might be politically harmful to the majority party in the House, or because the president may fail to win reelection. Nor can it fail to impeach because the Senate is unlikely to convict, any more than a grand jury can fail to indict because of the possibility the trial jury may be biased in favor of the accused.

Why? Because there are more reasons for the impeachment power than the potential removal of a specific president. Impeachment is designed to maintain for the future both (1) the standards of presidential conduct required by the founders and (2) exercise of the checks and balances the Constitution compels between the Legislative and Executive branches.

Impeachment Standard Not “Illegality.” President Trump’s defenders have altered their arguments as facts evolved – from, in effect, “he didn’t do it,” to “he may have done it, but he did nothing wrong,” to “he may have exercised bad judgment and done something wrong, but he did nothing illegal,” to “it can’t have been illegal because there was no quid-pro-quo,” to “even if it was illegal, and there was a quid-pro-quo, it is not an impeachable offense.”

As “Late Night” host Seth Meyers would say, “It’s time for a closer look.”

The founders modeled their constitutional standard for impeachment on British practice, which had its origins in 1341. Articles of impeachment in Great Britain included such things as “arbitrary and tyrannical government,” “procuring offices for persons who were unfit, and unworthy of them,” “squandering away the public treasure,” “improprieties in office,” “gross maladministration,” “corruption in office,” “neglect of duty,” excessive drinking and cursing that created “the highest scandal . . . on the kingdom.”

The British practice was to treat impeachment as a remedy separate from the process and standards of the criminal law and to include conduct not expressly recognized as “illegal.”

Interpretation of the U.S. Constitution’s language is influenced, but not bound, by British history. But American history is almost identical. The writings of Constitutional Convention members Alexander Hamilton, James Wilson, and James Madison indicate they believed impeachment did not require criminal offences. Nothing in the records of the states’ ratification of the Constitution indicate they believed impeachment was limited to criminal offenses. Of the first 13 impeachments by the House since 1789 (mostly of judges), at least 10 included charges that did not involve criminal law. Finally, Congress has never attempted to define “impeachment” in Title 18 of the U.S. Code (criminal code).

So far, three U.S. presidents have been impeached (Presidents Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton) and a fourth (President Trump) is undergoing an impeachment inquiry. None, so far, has been removed from office following the Senate trial. (President Johnson was saved by one vote; President Nixon resigned before his seemingly inevitable formal impeachment.)

Each presidential impeachment has involved some article dealing with other than criminal illegality.

As discussed in ”Trump’s High Crimes and Misdemeansors,” October 31, 2019, President Andrew Johnson’s tenth article of impeachment charged “That the President of the United States, unmindful of the high duties of his high office and the dignity and proprieties thereof, and of the harmony and courtesies which ought to exist and be maintained between the executive and legislative branches of the Government of the United States . . . [did] make and declare, with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces . . . amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled . . ..”

The first of the Articles of Impeachment regarding President Nixon included: “[Nixon] has prevented, obstructed, and impeded the administration of justice . . .. [He has] engaged personally and through his close subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or plan designed to delay, impede, and obstruct the investigation of such illegal entry [into Democratic National Committee headquarters]; to cover up, conceal and protect those responsible; and to conceal the existence and scope of other unlawful covert activities. “ (This is followed by nine examples.)

Article II, par. 5, alleged that “he knowingly misused the executive power by interfering with agencies of the executive branch, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation . . . and the Central Intelligence Agency.” Article III charged that he “has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives . . ..”

President Bill Clinton’s third article of impeachment included, after citing 7 specific items, “In all of this, [Clinton] has undermined the integrity of his office, has brought disrepute on the Presidency, [and] has betrayed his trust as President . . ..”

Taken together, the evidence is overwhelming that the validity of an article of impeachment does not turn on whether a "law" has been violated. Thus, even if it were true, as some Trump defenders contend, that "he has done nothing illegal" it does not follow that, therefore, he cannot and should not be impeached.

But wait, even if one insists that a violation of law is a requirement for impeachment . . .

Trump Has Violated the Law. Although unnecessary for impeachment, for a response to those who argue “he did nothing illegal” or “there was no quid-pro-quo” it seems clear he did violate the law, and that the law he violated does not require proof of a “quid-pro-quo.”

The law involved is contained in Section 30121 of Title 52, United States Code (“Voting and Elections”).

The relevant words are, “It shall be unlawful for . . . a person to solicit . . . or receive . . . from a foreign national ["a . . . thing of value . . . in connection with a Federal . . . election"].

(The primary subsection is Sec. 30121(a)(2). The [bracketed] words are from subsection 30121(a)(1)(A) because Sec. 30121(a)(2) defines what cannot be received as that which was "described in subparagraph (A) or (B) of paragraph (1).")

Thing of Value. Given the quantity of confirming testimony regarding the range of ways that Trump displayed his desire to obtain dirt on former Vice President, and candidate for president, Joe Biden, there can be no doubt he considered such information “a thing of value in connection with a Federal election.”

Solicitation. Notes from Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky included Trump’s now-infamous line, “I would like to ask you to do us a favor, though.” It turns out there was more than one “favor” requested, but one is enough to clearly establish “solicitation.”

Quid-Pro-Quo. Note that the law does not require a quid-pro-quo. So even if there had been no quid-pro-quo that would have been irrelevant to whether Sec. 30121 had been violated. Clearly, it would not have been a defense. But for whatever relevance it may have, it seems to have clearly been the impression of many of those who have testified before Congress that a quid-pro-quo was understood by both presidents.

Without exploring yet another possible crime, the existence of a quid-pro-quo, while irrelevant to Section 30121, may be very relevant to a charge of bribery.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Trump's High Crimes and Misdemeanors

Trump's High Crimes and Misdemeanors
Like the individual "charges" in a grand jury's indictment, there are individual "articles" in an impeachment. I have obtained one of those Articles:

“Article 10. That the President of the United States, unmindful of the high duties of his high office and the dignity and proprieties thereof, and of the harmony and courtesies which ought to exist and be maintained between the executive and legislative branches of the Government of the United States, designing and intending to set aside the rightful authorities and powers of Congress, did attempt to bring into disgrace, ridicule, hatred, contempt and reproach, the Congress of the United States, and the several branches thereof, to impair and destroy the regard and respect of all the good people of the United States for the Congress and the legislative power thereof, which all officers of the government ought inviolably to preserve and maintain, and to excite the odium and resentment of all good people of the United States against Congress and the laws by it duly and constitutionally enacted; and in pursuance of his said design and intent, openly and publicly and before divers assemblages of citizens of the United States, . . . on divers other days and times, as well before as afterwards, make and declare, with a loud voice, certain intemperate, inflammatory and scandalous harangues, and therein utter loud threats and bitter menaces . . . amid the cries, jeers and laughter of the multitudes then assembled . . ..”

Pretty flowery language maybe, but this is a solumn business. A violation of "the high duties of his high office and the dignity and proprieties thereof" pretty well covers a part of what Congress is dealing with, wouldn't you say?

Scholars seeped in details of impeachments in American history will recognizer the quote, above, as one of the 11 Articles of Impeachment of President Andrew Johnson (no relation) approved by Congress March 4, 1868.

So its relevance for us today is not that it is language ultimately included in whatever Articles of Impeachment of President Trump the House sends on to the Senate.

However, for those who interpret the Constitution's language historically, relying on "original intent," it is (1) language that could describe President Trump's behavior, and (2) evidence of what the House of Representatives found to be among the "high crimes and misdemeanors" warranting impeachment at the time of the first impeachment 151 years ago.

Sources, Credits and Links

Text source: https://www.senate.gov/…/…/briefing/Impeachment_Johnson.htm… Photo credit: wikimedia.org, Congressman Brad Sherman, June 12, 2017; Illustration credit: Theodore R. Davis, Harper's Weekly, April 11, 1868.

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